On November 14-16, 2008, forty-one people ranging in age from 14 to 70+ met at the Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, for an introductory training on Kingian Nonviolence co-sponsored by Highlander.

Little Rock Nonviolence Training
Participants in the Little Rock Nonviolence Training.
For more pictures from the session, click here.

Many of the participants were current or former gang members, recruited intentionally because of their battles with addiction, their exposure to violent situations, and their involvement in the judicial system. Also in attendance were people involved in the Christian Education departments of local United Methodist churches in Little Rock.

In addition to Highlander, the workshop was co-sponsored by the Gathering for Justice and the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. It was co-hosted by Theressa Hoover UMC and Black Community Developers, and held in the Multipurpose Center of Hoover UMC – the site of the Whites-only 6th grade school when Governor Orval Faubus defied the federal integration of public schools in 1957.

The training was very successful, nurturing participants’ desire to become more involved in community issues, learn more about nonviolence, and recommit themselves to growth. Rev. Malik Saffir, the Associate Pastor and Director of Christian Education at Theressa Hoover UMC, reported that many participants begged that the workshop be conducted again in December.

The training was part of an ongoing effort to create a new statewide coalition in Arkansas that can use Kingian nonviolence to press for change. Building on the success of the workshop, the groups involved are planning additional outreach to youth and adults in Little Rock, and to local churches, colleges and universities, and other NGOs, to help build the coalition. They are also planning more nonviolence trainings, including a second introductory session at Theressa Hoover UMC in March 2009 and possibly a week-long session there later in the spring.

Pictures from the session are available here.